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    Description

    Incredible K-2 1851 Humbert Fifty
    Lettered Edge, No 50 on Reverse
    An Eliasberg Cover Coin, MS63

    1851 $50 LE Humbert Fifty Dollar, 880 Thous. MS63 PCGS. No 50 on Reverse, K-2, R.5. Ex: Eliasberg-Oakwood Collection. A 1913 Liberty nickel, the first million-dollar U.S. coin sold at auction; an 1894-S dime; the unique 1873-CC No Arrows dime; a quintuple stella; a Shield Earring dollar; impossibly fine examples of Massachusetts silver and New York copper. All of these coins appeared on the cover of one of the most famous auction catalogs in numismatic history, for the May 1996 sale of part of the Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection. The sale is most familiar for its offerings of half cents through dimes, but the first session was dedicated to Territorial coins as well as Colonials and pattern pieces.
    In addition to the aforementioned pattern and Colonial highlights, a handful of Territorial coins also appeared on the cover: a Shultz & Co. five dollar rarity, and a twenty dollar piece of Pikes Peak gold. The third Territorial on the cover was this Lettered Edge Humbert fifty.
    This fifty was a standout in the legendary Eliasberg Collection. From that catalog (formatting edited):

    "1851 Augustus Humbert, U.S. Assayer of Gold, Moffat facilities. $50. 880 THOUS. and value stamped on coin. Hand-punched lettered edge. Target reverse. Kagin-2, Breen-7704, AU-55 or finer. Surfaces: Completely prooflike in obverse field. ... Variety with '50' in denomination and '880' in fineness punched separately into the coin. Very attractive rich golden surfaces. A superb coin from the beginning time of the Humbert coinage.
    "This 1851 Augustus Humbert octagonal $50 'slug' was featured in the Eliasberg Collection booklet, 'An Exhibition of the World's Foremost Collection of United States Coins,' and was considered by Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., to be one of the most important and historical of his private gold coin issues."


    The Lettered Edge Humbert fifties, including this example, were time-consuming to produce in their "hand-crafted style," to borrow the Eliasberg catalog's phrase. The dies were originally created for flexibility in value--why else have the "C" for "Cents" in the denomination?--yet in practice the fifty-dollar denomination dominated production. For each fifty dollar coin with Lettered Edge, workers had to do all of the following (from the Eliasberg catalog):

    "To emphasize the character of the $50 pieces with the hand-stamped features, we mention that these processes were needed to create them:

    1. The obverse and reverse motifs were stamped from a pair of dies.

    2-4. The fineness was hand-stamped on the obverse with three separate numeral punches.

    5. The value (50) was hand-stamped on the obverse, possibly from a single punch (but this is not verified).

    6-13. In eight separate operations each of the eight edge faces was stamped with a logotype punch."


    With so much effort required just to put edge-lettering on--edge lettering that put the word HUMBERT upside-down with respect to the rest on this particular coin--it is little wonder that the fifty dollar "slug" designs evolved to put the date and denomination on the obverse and reeds on the edge, simplifying striking into a one-step process.
    This example of the Lettered Edge type offers a distinctive appearance. Its surfaces are generally orange-gold with alloy colors visible mostly at the left obverse, which shows distinct violet, blue, and green overtones. Above-average detail on the eagle device, though the talons are soft, and the previously mentioned reflectivity is strong in the obverse fields. The expected light abrasions appear at the rims and on the main surfaces; two depressions of indeterminate origin, one between the eagle's head and the ribbon above and the other to the left of the shield, are pictured on the Eliasberg cover and instantly recognizable attributes for pedigree purposes.
    Ex: Possibly John M. Clapp, June 1899; Clapp Estate; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., 1942; Eliasberg Estate; The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection (5/1996), lot 339, which realized $40,700; Oakwood Collection.


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2010
    11th-15th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 13
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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